BY ABBY BAKER '19
Marty Meehan, President of the University of Massachusetts, announced on April 6 that financial aid distributed amongst qualified UMass students had increased by nearly $20 million during the 2015-2016 academic year. During this time, financial aid spending increased from $236 million to $255 million, which is the most the university has ever spent on financial aid in one year. This comes as a result of increased state funding for financial aid purposes.
In his statement, President Meehan said, “As a UMass graduate who worked my way through school, I’m extremely mindful of the financial pressures that students and their families feel — pressures that are even more acute today than they were in the past. The trustees, the chancellors and the entire leadership of the University are committed to making UMass as affordable as it can be—and the additional $20 million we have dedicated to financial aid demonstrates how serious we are about this critical issue.”
Liam Kantor, a first-year linguistics student at UMass, said of the increase, “Public funding for colleges has in general decreased. More funding is good. It means students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come will now be able to.”
In the report President Meehan presented to the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Administration and Finance, University of Massachusetts students received $334 million in financial aid this past year, and need-based aid comprised $105 million of the university’s financial aid spending. The average net cost (the price once financial aid and scholarships are deducted) for an in-state undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts is $16,399. It was also reported that all in-state University of Massachusetts students deemed to have financial need received some measure of aid.
President Meehan commended Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, Stanley Rosenberg, president of the Massachusetts Senate, and Robert DeLeo, Massachusetts House Speaker, for contributing to the decision.
As the price of college skyrockets, politicians have been under more pressure from constituents to address these issues. Stanley Rosenberg, especially, has been active in engaging with and responding to the needs of college students and college-aged individuals. He is part of the Millennial Engagement Initiative, an outreach effort to meet with young voters and dis- cuss issues that matter to them.
Governor Baker has expressed the desire to make college more affordable and responded favorably to a proposed bill earlier this year to make two years of community college free in Massachusetts.
The governor’s office issued a statement that “the governor will carefully review all legislation that comes to his desk and recognizes the important role community colleges play in providing an afford- able education and spurring workforce development. Aligning higher education and the needs of the economy by building greater connections between community colleges and local business communities is a priority as the administration works with stakeholders on strategies to close the workforce skills gap.”
The rising price of higher education continues to be a pressing national issue. In awarding the University of Massachusetts more funding for financial aid, Massachusetts politicians are taking a step forward in making college more affordable.